Automation may be the key to unlocking high-speed production lines, but operators must be trained to keep up with the technology in the facility. Establishing a well-trained workforce will allow the equipment to meet its full potential.

“While equipment, process and line configuration are the most important aspects in getting the most out of the production line, training and support of the personnel running the lines is just as important,” said Jay Fernandez, bakery innovation manager, Middleby Bakery Group. “Manual interventions by operators should be minimal. Understanding the equipment, learning its capabilities along with care and maintenance will unlock its full potential.”

This support looks different than on production lines that need a lot of manual interference.

“High-speed lines involve a lot of automation, so operators don’t need to make as many adjustments, but they need to fully understand the equipment,” pointed out Bruce Campbell, vice president, dough processing technologies, AMF Baking Systems.

Without proper training, operators cannot effectively support the equipment with proper sanitation and maintenance as well as operation. High-speed lines leave little room for error, and that includes human error. While operators may not be making adjustments manually, they will be supervising production flow and need to know how to spot problems.

“This operator must be well-trained and know exactly how to rectify issues should they occur,” said Patricia Kennedy, president, WP Bakery Group. “This is quite challenging for the operator as any issues that occur need to be dealt with very quickly.”

Because again, at high speeds problems escalate quickly. When transitioning to a high-speed, highly automated line, John Kirkpatrick, bakery specialist, Reiser, suggested reducing the possibility of a bottleneck by planning for a learning curve among the workforce.

“If you have added new equipment, ideally start with a 10% increase over your current rate and perform a top-to-bottom line review to ensure there are no issues that arise,” he said. “Once that condition has been satisfied, continue at that increase until your new maximum capacity is achieved. This can take several shifts or days, depending on adjustments needed.” 

Continuous training must go hand-in-hand with continuous production. AMF offers quarterly partnership maintenance programs to ensure proper procedures are in place to keep up the equipment, and the company also offers its AMFMethod Documentation and Training Tool to facilitate training and workforce development that supports the company’s equipment.

This article is an excerpt from the June 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Bun & Roll Technology, click here.